Lower Back Pain Exercises (The Big 3)

AJ demonstrates the Big 3 Low Back stabilization exercises from Dr. Stuart McGill.

AJ here, with Stronglife Physiotherapy. Sir Isaac Newton once said: “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” One of the giants in the physical therapy profession when it comes to low back pain is Dr. Stuart McGill. He’s fixed the backs of professional fighters, olympians and other elite athletes allowing them to return to high level competition. He has what he calls the big 3 exercises for spinal stabilization and in this video we’re going to show you how they’re done.

Dr. McGill emphasizes that the muscles of the spine are designed for stabilization or rather, to prevent too much motion from occurring. Exercises and activities that have a lot of motion through the spine like full sit-ups can cause excessive strain and lead to potential injury. He also makes the point that endurance is especially important in these muscle since they are postural muscles, which means they are required to stay activated for long periods of time through out the day.

Bird Dog
Get on your hands and knees. Find your neutral position by fully extending the spine then fully flexing the spine. Your neutral position should be somewhere in the middle but still have a slight curve in the low back. Stiffen your core, lift your opposite arm and leg and hold for 10 seconds, bring the arm and leg down without putting any weight on them. Then raise them again and repeat 5-10 times on each side. For added difficulty form circles or squares with your arm and leg.

McGill Curl Up
Lie down flat on your back. One leg straight and the other bent. Place your hands under the small of your back for lumbar support. Lift your head and shoulders slightly. Hold this position for 10 seconds, repeat 5-10 times. Get on your side with your top foot in front and supporting yourself on your elbow. You can place the top hand on the opposite deltoid to help support the shoulder. Lift your hips to straighten your body, keep your core stiff and your back and your hips straight. Hold for 10 seconds, repeat 5-10 times. Work up to a minute long hold. If this position is too difficult or painful, it can be performed from your knees instead of from your feet. But you’ll want to eventually work up to performing it from your feet.

These are 3 great exercises to help improve your ability to stabilize your spine. If you have low back pain do them 2-3 times a day. Once your pain is gone, do them 2-3 times per week as a maintenance program to prevent the pain from returning.

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